Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Douglas Adams' flat in London

I find it helps to describe a scene if I've seen it, so I was looking on Rightmove for a suitable place for my heroine's mother to live near Highbury Fields when I chanced upon this flat (link may expire). It's one of Douglas Adams' old homes. I've always known he lived in Islington, round the corner from me, but was never sure exactly where. The estate agent writes, 

It is not often that Hotblack Desiato has the opportunity to sell an apartment that used to be owned by Douglas Adams, who borrowed our name for a character in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

In the book, Hotblack Desiato was frontman for the mega-successful rock band Disaster Area, and spent a year dead for tax reasons. They may boast about it now on their website, but at the time the estate agent was not so pleased. For a while the firm's name changed to Hotblack & Co, no doubt because people assumed they had stolen the name from Douglas Adams, not vice versa.

This is the living room as it is today, fourteen years after Douglas Adams died too young at 49. I bet that pipe was there in his day, raising eyebrows. It's not the sort of thing you'd install on purpose. Why hasn't the house got a blue plaque? That's what I'd like to know.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Reason for Amazon's success - everyone else is rubbish

At the funeral of an old friend of mine, a great guy called Charlie Feathers, someone told a story about him from the 1980s. Charlie had recently done work for several rich and famous people, the latest being Adam Ant, and his friend asked him how he got these jobs.

"Because everyone else is rubbish," Charlie replied.

This is the secret of Amazon's success, too, particularly when compared with Big Publishing, who are spectacularly rubbish at what they do, and only got away with it for so many years because they had a monopsony. So many businesses don't really care about the customer, tick boxes instead of doing a good job, fail to apply their intelligence to what they do, and generally don't bother.

Consider my experience in the past week:

  • I ordered sample tiles from Walls and Floors. Instead of the two square blue tiles ordered, two rectangular tiles in cream and green arrived.
  •  DX claimed via email to have  redelivered the (I hope) corrected order yesterday, when I was in my workshop all day. I asked my neighbours in the building. Zilch. I chased DX. Apparently they didn't deliver yesterday after all, and I will now have to wait till Monday.
  • My gas supplier wants to check my home gas meter for obscure safety reasons. They will only give 'appointments' of a five hour window. They seriously expect me, as a self-employed person, to waste half a day sitting around unpaid at home because they cannot be bothered to organize a tighter schedule. Ocado manages to give an hour's window for grocery deliveries, and rings if running late or early. Why won't Lowri Beck Services? 
Meanwhile Amazon has started same day deliveries in London. I can't be alone in finding myself purchasing more from Amazon and less from everybody else. The makeup remover that the chemist down the road no longer stocks? Amazon has it. The palm sander pads for which my local Leyland charges £6.98 for 5 sheets? Amazon offers 20 for £9.99, with free delivery, or 6 generic for £1.99. Waitrose has stopped selling bean sprouts - but Amazon sells beans for sprouting. I could go on.

Any business feeling threatened by Amazon might usefully consider upping its game. Or shutting up shop.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Time Rats, animatronics and robots

I've been researching robots and androids for the second book in my Time Rats series (first book available soon). I was amazed with what is already out there. See this video:

These skilful imitations of animals increase one's appreciation of the natural world -  and make me brood on the threat it faces from ever-growing numbers of humans. The increase of Africa's population alone is forecast to be 1.3 billion by 2050, the date in which much of my novel is set.

It would be a sad thing indeed if the only big cats in fifty years' time were robotic.